In the weeks leading up to the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl, which will take place on Saturday, December 31 at State Farm Stadium and serve as a College Football Playoff Semifinal Game, AZ Big Media is sitting down with a member of the Fiesta Bowl family every Friday to shine a light on the event itself but also all the ways that the organization drives economic growth and champions charitable causes, inspiring pride in all Arizonans during and outside of college football Bowl Season.

Today, we sit down to talk Bowl memories and impact with Eric Barkyoumb, Fiesta Bowl Yellow Jacket Committee member and 2022 Fiesta Bowl Game Operations Chair who also serves as Director of Philanthropy at the Dignity Health Foundation East Valley.

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When and why did you begin volunteering for the Fiesta Bowl? Please provide the year and details on why you did so.

Barkyoumb:  I began volunteering with the Fiesta Bowl during the 2011 bowl season as I was exploring ways to get involved in my community.  I had such an enjoyable time being around the excitement and pageantry of the games that I was compelled to apply for committee membership the following year.  This year marks my tenth season as a Fiesta Bowl Yellow Jacket.

Tell us about your game operations role and what are your general goals with the position?

Barkyoumb:  This year I have the great honor of serving as Game Operations Chair.  The role of the Game Operations Chair is to lead a team of 75+ volunteers, all serving in various capacities to ensure that all of the in-stadium elements run smoothly and successfully, from pre-game pageantry such as the National Anthem to postgame trophy celebrations and player awards.  Outside of the in-game responsibilities, members of the Game Operations team play host and liaison to various partners and guests of the Bowl such as the National Anthem performer and game officials.  The goal here is to provide high-touch, personal attention to these partners to ensure they have a positive experience throughout game week and on game day.   

What has been your favorite Fiesta Bowl game to date as a spectator and why? Be sure to name the year and the teams who played.

Barkyoumb: I really enjoyed the 2022 Fiesta Bowl as a spectator.  Both Oklahoma State and Notre Dame have incredibly passionate, energetic fan bases and unique traditions they honor.  The game itself started a little bit one-sided with Notre Dame breaking out into a significant lead early on.  However, Oklahoma State charged back and the game came down to the final seconds, with the Cowboys sealing the comeback victory with a final score of 37-35.  It was an incredible game to watch for all college football fans, whether present at State Farm Stadium or in the comfort of their own home or favorite restaurant anywhere in the country.

Any memorable moments while working the Fiesta Bowl game itself?

Barkyoumb:  In my ten years as a member of the Fiesta Bowl Game Operations Committee, I’ve had the opportunity to witness dozens of college football bowl games at State Farm Stadium in Glendale and Chase Field in downtown Phoenix.  Honestly, the moments between the start of the National Anthem and the opening kickoff of each game always stick as lasting memories for me.  I love the combination of a moment of national pride shared by 60,000+ fans followed by the tension in the air as two top-tier football programs dig to battle for a piece of college football history.  It’s one of the things that makes college football bowl season special, and I love being able to play a very small role in it.

Given Christmas is around the corner, please share an example of how the Fiesta Bowl helped make spirits merrier and brighter this year?

Barkyoumb: Earlier this month, Fiesta Bowl Charities partnered with Dick’s Sporting Goods to provide 40 Valley children who have a parent deployed in active military service a holiday shopping spree in Dick’s Sporting Goods at the Arrowhead Towne Center in Glendale. These 40 children were selected through the Fighter Country Foundation, a local organization that focuses on the supporting programs and services at Luke Air Force Base that aid, support and honor Airmen and their families. Participating youth were given a $300 Dick’s Sporting Goods gift card and paired with a Fiesta Bowl volunteer to assist with shopping for holiday gifts. In addition to the shopping spree, children also enjoyed dinner provided by Rudy’s BBQ and received an Operation Santa t-shirt. Since 2006, Fighter Country Foundation has been the leading support and advocacy group for the Luke Air Force Base community and in the Valley of the Sun. Partnering with the Fighter Country Foundation allows Fiesta Bowl Charities to further its goal of supporting Arizona’s youth. The Fiesta Bowl and Fighter Country Foundation are proud to have the opportunity to provide a day of holiday cheer to these children and their families who already sacrifice so much.